FYI, the Institute on Community Integration Staff Newsletter

December 2014

ICI Helps State Realize “Promise of Olmstead

In the 1999 Supreme Court case, Olmstead v. L.C., the Court ruled that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the unjustified institutional isolation of people with disabilities was a form of unlawful discrimination. In 2013, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton established a subcabinet to develop and implement a comprehensive Minnesota Olmstead Plan to make the state a place that realizes the “promise of Olmstead” by being a place where people with disabilities live, learn, work, and enjoy life in the most integrated community settings possible. Staff of the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) are working with the State to help realize that promise.

“Key to the spirit of Olmstead is the vision of our communities as welcoming and inclusive to all citizens,” says Susan O’Nell of ICI’s Research and Training Center on Community Living (RTC). “In Minnesota, challenges to Olmstead have included a lack of consistent vision and vocabulary regarding what it means to be person-centered. This affects individual practice but also the system as a whole. Another challenge is having access to training and technical expertise in best practices and evidence-based practices when people’s needs are complex and include behaviors that create risk for themselves or others.”

Under a contract from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, staff of the RTC have been working for the past few years to support Minnesota’s development and implementation of its Olmstead Plan and address these challenges. The RTC State Training and Technical Assistance Initiatives, as they’re called, have three core components:

  • Person-centered thinking and planning training led by Angela Amado and Anne Roehl.

  • Positive Supports training led by Joe Riechle, Barb Kleist, and Rachel Freeman.

  • Customized College of Direct Support (CDS) instruction led by Nancy McCulloh and Mark Olson (CDS is the online competency-based training for Direct Support Professionals nationwide developed at the RTC).

These initiatives, coordinated by Susan O’Nell and supported many of the RTC staff, support the State in moving forward in communicating and defining its vision of inclusive communities for all by equipping communities, providers, families, and others to deliver services, supports, and policies consistent with Olmstead.

A key part of the Olmstead Plan is employment of people with disabilities. The RTC’s Derek Nord assisted the State in the development of the Minnesota Employment First policy that the Olmstead subcabinet adopted in September 2014. Employment First, as stated in the State’s policy, means “...raising the expectation that all working age Minnesotans with disabilities can work, want to work, and can achieve competitive integrated employment; and each person will be offered the opportunity to work and earn a competitive wage before being offered other supports and services.” As part of Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan, its Employment First policy guides multiple state agencies with a vision, a policy framework, and instruction to develop and implement plans that ensure Employment First principles and informed choice are integrated into new and existing employment-related policies, services, and supports for people with disabilities.

All of these activities and more on the part of the RTC are helping to build Minnesota’s capacity to continue moving forward in realizing the “promise of Olmstead” in 2015, which also is the 25th anniversary of passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the law that opened the door for the Olmstead decision.

FFI on the RTC’s Olmstead-related work, contact Susan at